Years of heartache make double success all the sweeter for Tallaght men's first team
Tallaght Rugby Club's men's first team completed a league and cup double this season when adding the John Madden Cup to the Metro League Division 7 title that they had won a week earlier.
Tallaght Rugby Club was set up in 2002 as part of the 'Tallaght Project', an IRFU initiative designed to introduce rugby in non-traditional areas.
It initially started running underage teams and focused on introducing the game in schools in the area but in 2006 the first senior men's team was set up.
In Tallaght's first season in 2006-2007 they only played a few cup games, but by 2007-2008 they entered the J4 Metro League.
Aside from a couple of seasons of Sunday rugby in the Leinster League, Tallaght have competed in the Metro League ever since.
They had some success, winning the John Madden plate in 2011 and 2015 but they had endured a winless season in the league before Tom Leigh took over as head coach at the beginning of the 2015/16 season.
In his first season in charge Tallaght won four league games but they improved massively as they went on to make the league final for the next two seasons, losing to DLSP and Old Wesley.
Crucially, a lot of players who played youth rugby for Tallaght started returning. Dave Clarke, Karl Segrave and Ste Heaney were ever-presents but Adam Nolan, Ciaran and Andy Rudd, Al Sower and Rob Hudson came back as well.
Other players who'd left the club or retired, like Andy Caswell, Joe Ivers, Jack Russell, Ken McGovern, Alan Moore and Andy Grace, were attracted back to play again.
Australian full-back Simon Collie also joined the club and became a major influence.
As well as the two league finals, they also made the John Madden Cup final in 2017 and the Plate final again in 2018, but they couldn't quite get over the line.
It was tough not to pick up a trophy after going so close in four finals but the setbacks only increased Tallaght's hunger.
They started this season well and were top of the table at Christmas but they lost first place when they suffered consecutive defeats in January, a loss away to Clontarf and a stinging 38-10 defeat at home to Seapoint.
It served as something of a wake-up call.
They responded by winning their final three games of the season - including a nail-biting 10-8 success over fellow challengers AIB - to make the final, away to Seapoint.
The final in Kilbogget Park was a classic, intense club final.
Seapoint took the lead with an early try but Rob Hudson scored Tallaght's only try before tacking on a conversion and a penalty to give Tallaght a 10-7 lead early in the second half.
Seapoint hit back with a try to lead 12-10 but then skipper Adam Nolan showed great leadership to kick a long-range penalty, making it 13-12.
Tallaght had to survive a few late scares, including a Seapoint penalty that came back off the post, but they hung on to win their first league and gain promotion to Division 6.
Manic celebrations followed but the lads had to regroup quickly for the John Madden Cup final a week later in Malahide against DLSP.
Tallaght started the game extremely well and were 10-0 up thanks to a Ken McGovern try and a penalty and conversion from Hudson.
DLSP fought their way back into the game to tie the match at 10-all with 20 minutes to go but skipper Nolan stepped up again to kick a long-range penalty to make it 13-10 before, with a few minutes remaining, McGovern smashed his way over from close range to make the final score 18-10 to Tallaght.
Tallaght coach Tom Leigh was thrilled for his team: "I came here four years ago and from day one, I believed we could win this league.
"It's taken a lot of hard work and we've had some heartbreak along the way but those defeats just make today's win all the sweeter.
"The cup win was a lovely bonus on top and I want to thank all the extended squad, some of which didn't get to play in the last two weeks. Their commitment to training has been amazing and it's driven everyone else on."
Tallaght's men's, women's and youths teams are always looking for new players so if you're interested in joining the Tallaght family please see the club website for contact details.